At this stage of the high school football season, everybody knows that while the stakes continue to get higher and the level of competition rises, anyone can beat anyone on any given night.
Even the slightest of mistakes, however, can be the difference between turning to the Final 4 or turning in the equipment.
In a rematch of last year’s Class 4A Sectionals, the Arkansas City Bulldogs (4-6) make the trip to McPherson tonight to take on the No. 2-ranked Bullpups (10-0).
The home crowd is expecting the usual lopsided victory. Those making the trip by bus and car believe anything can happen.
They have to believe that or they wouldn’t be there.
Defense dominated last weekend’s 4A Regionals.
The Bulldogs advanced with a 13-3 victory at Winfield against the arch rival Vikings in a rematch of the Cowley Cup. Ark City avenged a Week 1 loss to Winfield in that game, taking the 4A Regional trophy back to Ark City in the process.
McPherson had a devil of a time putting away Goddard 14-8 in that 4A Regional.
Ironically, that game was a rematch from last season’s 4A Sub-State, when the Lions stunned the Bullpups 15-14 in McPherson.
Last weekend’s victory included several solid defensive plays from one of McPherson’s top offensive players in defensive end Cody Stufflebean, a 6-foot-4 senior who has committed to Kansas State.
In addition to hauling in six passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns as McPherson’s tight end, Stufflebean twice sacked Goddard quarterback Kaedon Hoefer on the Lions’ final drive, eventually pressuring him into throwing a game-deciding interception to strong safety Kaleb Hoppes.
Oh, and Hoppes is also the quarterback, accounting for 240 total yards, 114 on the ground and 126 through the air. However, Hoppes was intercepted twice and the Bullpups lost two more turnovers on first-half fumbles.
The Bulldogs put together a solid game plan of their own last weekend, and when they went into halftime down 3-0, nobody in that locker room thought they were going to lose.
The offense stepped up big in the second half, but the defense stepped up even bigger, holding Winfield to 17 total yards and one first down after halftime.
Freshman Gabe Welch, who had perhaps his best all-around game two weeks ago in the Week 9 victory at Ulysses, was a cozy 12-of-17 passing for 145 yards, with one interception.
A lot of the output came on two passes to Lucas Barnes for 70 yards.
Behind a strong game from the offensive line, senior tailback Braiden Mattocks finished with 163 yards and two touchdowns. Of that, 138 yards and both scores came in the second half.
The winner of tonight’s game advances to the Final Four and a 4A Sub-State game against either Andover Central or Buhler — league rivals for both Ark City and McPherson.